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BRISTOL – A leading UK environmental consultant claims the decision by luxury brand Burberry to destroy £28.6m of unsold stock to protect its brand raises legal issues. The British brand hit the headlines this week after it was found to have destroyed unsold clothes, accessories and perfume to prevent them being stolen or sold cheaply. The practice is common, with luxury retailers in particular claiming such measures are needed to protect intellectual property and prevent illegal counterfeiting. It is claimed the total value of goods Burberry has destroyed over the past five years comes to more than £90m, though the company has offered the rather lame reasoning that the energy generated from burning its products is captured.

Peter Jones, principal consultant at Eunomia Research & Consulting Ltd, claims a company which purposefully destroys stock could potentially be breaking the law under UK environmental guidelines.

Jones told Apparel Insider: “It’s a real problem that businesses aren’t aware of their environmental obligations. Since 2011, all companies in the UK have been required to apply the waste hierarchy. That means they have to take all reasonable steps to prevent waste; to reuse what can’t be prevented; and recycle what can’t be reused. Only after these possibilities have been exhausted should they consider incineration or landfill. Our experience is that there is a great deal that companies can do to apply the waste hierarchy, saving money and achieving better environmental outcomes in the process.

“Every time a company has its waste collected, they have to declare they are complying with the hierarchy. But it does not appear that Burberry is living up to its legal obligations. It’s up to the Environment Agency to enforce the law, and I call on them to investigate what has happened here. It’s a woeful situation and has to change if England is going to move towards a more circular economy.”

Does Peter Jones have a point? If so, we feel many more companies in the UK could be falling foul of the law. As ever, having laws in place is one thing, while enforcing them is something else entirely.

For those interested, the legal text around UK waste disposal is here: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2011/988/regulation/12/made

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